What is the difference between a mora and a syllable?

Moras, known as haku () in Japanese, are rhythmic units.[1] The Japanese writing system of kana is based on moras, placing one kana on each mora. These are subtly different from syllables. Japanese forms of poetry based on "syllable counts" such as haiku (俳句), poems with seventeen "syllables", are not really based on counts of syllables, but on counts of moras.

Moras are very similar to syllables, but there are some differences.

There are also various reasons to consider Tookyoo "Tokyo" and hanbun "half" both to be two-syllable but four-mora words.

Moras are counted as 1-paku, 2-haku, ... using haku () or 1-on, 2-on, ... using on (). See What is the counter for ...? for more on Japanese counting words.

Acknowledgements

This answer is based on a newsgroup post by muchan.

References

  1. David Crystal, A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics, page 312.; 2008

If you have questions, corrections, or comments, please contact Ben Bullock or use the discussion forum / Privacy

Book reviews Convert<br>Japanese<br>numbers Handwritten<br>kanji<br>recognition Stroke order<br>diagrams Convert<br>Japanese<br>units